Do you see?

30 March 2004 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Olen tyttö, ihanaa! (‘Wonderful, I’m a girl!’, Tammi, 2003)

I’m hanging from the Antonovka branch

I'm hanging from the Antonovka branch
                   upside down, my hair stretching upwards,
   I swing, the lawn sky
flies past, it's raining tree-trunks,
the fish bring Grandad in from the lake,
the cows have herded Grandma from the pasture,
the dough kneads the hand on the table-top.
The potatoes have lifted us from the earth,
         the fields plough me,
           the grass is creeping into Felix,
    bones gnaw at Fido, beneath the currant bushes
                            worms peck at the chickens.
The apple has bitten Eve,
  hunger devours me with each mouthful,
and death comes too,
  breathing the air from my lungs,
                                         then passes:
  I drop down to my palms
on to my feet

Through the chinks in the wall panels

Dusty light seeps through
           the chinks in the wall panels,
       black ground beetles
  gleam on the floor of the barn cathedral,
             lead glass,
           jewels loosened from the chalice,
        they crawl bum to bum, and suddenly
   something clenches
     between my legs too,
a sicklewort cherub sticks
  his trombone between the panels,
                                  sounding out
                          his purple Mendelssohn,
incense swirls up from the manure stack,
and swallow-in-law
     from atop the door
        chivvies along
            the vow-swearing: yeah yeah yeah!
and something holy undeniably takes place,
         a merciless mercy
    descends and the dust rises,
sisters and brothers in faith,
     heavenly bodies,
  smoulder as each other's drapes,
and I
rest my forehead against the pitchfork,
    lean its spikes into the hay, a wedding
                  with nothing, where the girl can
               carry the boy
             throughout the ceremony
        the weaker vessel

Witness

I

You wake up once or twice before dawn.
Did you hear thuds
in your sleep, whispers,
strangled moans,
the door rattling?

The wind, branches? pounding within you:
is there someone else in your room?
You strain your ears, your eyes filter
the intruder through the night,

but the darkness just sparkles,
blossoms, tingling
as if you were beneath your eyelids,
about to wake.

II

You open the door ajar, careful
the creak doesn’t
give you away, slip
out of your frilly room
into the long dark corridor,
and with icy feet you patter
through the slumbering house

so close that I can see:
the darkness has made your pupils
grow, engulfed your eyes.

Night breathes in through the curtains
   like a horse, a warm stream of air
            against your skin like my hand,
     the floor jerks,
                     the mirror on the dressing table shudders,
                                                   stands trembling,
as you step into your reflection, I step back:
you glide past me, towards me
    deeper into the blossoming darkness

III

Is there a murderer in the cupboard?
That appears when you close your eyes?

What lies behind the fuchsia buds? A vampire?
Is it a robber riding the rocking horse,
brandishing a snake plant sabre?

Folds of pitch-darkness swarming with millipedes

and it is me, you creep so close
I can feel the trembling
life awakens within you

when the sounds of night scare
you, the sigh of the wind,
the laughing, screeching witch
in her tattered cape,
sprinking your face with grubs, cobwebs,
tearing off your pyjamas with blood-twig fingers.

Did you see the owl before
your eyes rubbed it away?

Do you see: the noises come
from beneath your feet,
from the fabric of your pyjamas
as you breathe, you
give them life.

IV

You sneak into your parents’ room.
You want to check they really are safe,
that nothing happened to them
the way you imagined.

I follow you with the tides of night
through the bedroom’s fragrant warmth,
through the air breathed so many times,
to the place where they lie
side by side in their shared bed:

nightclothes have left them naked,
their waves of hair, the whispering lagoon.
Mum lies sprawled with her legs apart,
between Dad’s eyelids trickles
a clear, stray drop.

Who are they sleeping?
You will never awaken them,
never on purpose.

And like weighing another hand
in your hand, you realise: They will remain
this age forever,
only you will grow old.
Never again, my strong man, can you
shut fast the swollen door.

Translated by David Hackston

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